Friday, January 9, 2009

2012: Astronomically not a problem

End-Of-The-World theories and predictions are very numerous, and many dates have already passed, so it is very difficult to take any single one of them seriously. I have a simple rule of thumb -- if religion has anything to do with the predictions -- not to worry. The Mayans made a calendar, it needed to end somewhere because the rock was only so big. It just so happened to end in 2012.

Science, however, has plenty of problems that can keep your anxiety pill bottles emptied.

The year 2012 is only a partial passing from one point in the plane of the Galactic orbit to another. The Sun is so large that it already has passed those points, and the Earth will only share in that passing in 2012. But there is no particular problem that could be identified with that point. No gravity wells, asteroid clouds or hordes of alien space ships. There might be some problems with the orbits of asteroids or comets that we don't know about, but the Mayans probably didn't know about them either.

Right here on Earth, though, there are plenty of problem areas, i.e. the various volcanoes and supervolcanoes that could happen -- the Yellowstone caldera for example. It blows every 600,000 years or so, and is overdue. The Mt. Ranier volcano would be bad enough for people in Washington and Oregon, etc., even though it would be hundreds of times less bad than Yellowstone. Both of these sites are having little spits and groans. Neither can be predicted within any 1 year accuracy, that is for sure, and certainly not to coincide with December 21, 2012 or any other date. If Yellowstone went off, however, there could be Mass extinctions world wide.

There are also undersea landslides and earthquakes that can cause massive tidal waves, which periodically screw up life along many shores. The Pacific Coast from Canada to Northern California is periodically inundated with such waves, as are the South Asian islands such as Indonesia. Low lying areas are the most exposed, of course, but sometimes the waves are so big that even large hills are overwhelmed. Not usually world changing, but certainly bad news for local folks.

The Sun is strangely quiet. This means that less solar wind is blowing, so more cosmic rays are reaching us, although most of them are absorbed in the upper atmosphere. The Sun usually has these 11 year cycles of sunspots, but there are almost no spots lately, long overdue. What this means for us I don't know -- weather might be effected by electrical energy from collisions of cosmic rays, etc. I'm not sure what to think of it.

The Earth periodically passes through thicker gas clouds in parts of the Galactic arm where our Sun orbits in. When this happens there are perturbations of the Oort cloud, which can cause comets to rain down into our orbit. This seems to be the 26 million year extinction cycle, and this effect won't occur again for millions of years, but when it does -- Mass extinctions.

Every few thousand years there is a supernova somewhere in the Galaxy. If it is close enough to us it can emit so much UV and gamma radiation that our atmosphere would be stripped away, cooked and result in bad news on the surface of Earth -- Mass extinctions. Unpredictable.

Bacteria -- and other microorganisms. There are often Red Tides in our shores. We can even go down to the shore at night and watch the glow of those particular microbes that emit light when disturbed by the waves. They tend to kill every single bottom and filter feeder in the ocean, which can spiral into a great die off of fish, seals and whales. This happens on a local scale every 10-20 years. It can happen on a global scale, too, but unknown how often. Sort of a Biblical "sea turns to blood" type of thing.

Our own populations and economic problems can mushroom into a pandemic. We will eat everything we can catch. We will burn anything to keep warm. We can spread strange diseases around the world and have no method of curing them. We will convert the world to a desert with little clean water. But only if our population exceeds some X number. We may have exceeded X already, and we are only just beginning to have the bad effects -- die offs of life forms we depend on, pollution poisoning fresh water sources, etc. Mass extinctions could result from our own idiocy.

Nothing can be linearly predicted. Humans have a self-awareness and unpredictable behavior. We might self-correct many of our problems and avoid the effects of our populations on the planet. Certainly we would not completely die off -- when the population fell to some M minimum, then there would be enough life-support on the planet to support all the life forms we need to survive -- hopefully.

Anyway, for my grand children's sake I hope none of these things happen too soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More Death and Less Resolution

There are few issues in the world that are more problematic than the Israeli-Arab conflicts. It is a problem that transcends generations, and has been going on for centuries. The current issue of the "State of Israel" versus the "State of Palestine" is only the latest page of the latest chapter in a very large book full of tragedy and horror.

Since I am neither Israeli nor Arab, there is little I can directly experience of their affairs. I do have Israeli friends and, at least remotely, I have some Arab acquaintances. I know more Islamic people than Arabs, however, since there is an obvious difference. Although Islam and Judaism have their problems, too, the remoteness of Pakistanis to Israelis, for example, is too great for their to be direct eye for an eye revenge battles such as there are with the Arabs. You might think the same was true of Iran, since Persians and Israelis have not been in many direct conflicts over the centuries.

Yet, due to the Palestine problem, many Islamic peoples have taken up the battle against Israel, and by extension, against all Jews. The fact that Christianity is also "somewhat" related to Judaism seems to damn them as well, although the Arabs are much more related by blood to the original Jews than to most Christians in modern times. But this also extends to Islamic peoples of Indian descent or to Indonesians. They are Islamic by force of belief, not by being Arab. The hatred of the Jews because of their religion is therefore entirely irrational.

The hatred of anyone for any reason is usually irrational, since it is an emotional reaction rather than a conscious choice. There are few people that I could say "I hate", and when I do examine closely why I might say that, I cannot come up with a logical "A is to B as C is to D" kind of answer.

If someone murdered my children, I would certainly be emotionally effected, no question of that. I would probably hate whoever did such a thing. But what would it be that I hated? That person? What if they were also dead, killed by the police or by their own hand after committing the murder. Should I hate the non-existent person? Should I hate the gravestone of that person? The reasoning would be meaningless, but I might still hate that person -- because I would hate the memory I have of my loss and the cause of that loss. I would be hating that part of my brain that encodes the loss of my child at the hand of a murderer.

Many centuries have passed since the Roman emperors wielded their power of life and death over the peoples of the Mediterranean. The Romans killed whoever they liked to kill, whenever they wished to do so, for several centuries. Amongst their victims were Christians, Jews, Egyptians, and even other Romans. Should we all hate the Romans and their descendants? Should we try to erase all the Roman influences within our cultures? We would wind up hating ourselves because our cultures are so intertwined with the Romans (and the Christians and Jews and Egyptians, etc.) there can be no unraveling them.

The current operation in Israel is against the "Hamas" organization. They are Arab, Islamic, and implacably hateful of Israelis. They feel wronged, oppressed, displaced, etc. One can feel some sympathy for their plight. At the same time they are unapologetically guilty of murdering women, children, and anyone else who happens to be close by, using suicide bombs, random rocket attacks, mortars, booby traps, car bombs, etc. These are all the tools of guerrilla fighters.

After so many of these attacks upon the citizens of Israel occur, then the inevitable response from the much stronger, more technically advanced IAF rains massively destructive weapons down upon them, which also kills women, children and anyone else who happens to be close by.

The cycle continues. In the distance, Iran threatens to "extinct" Israel. The Al Qaeda hordes threaten the same. The angry Arabs and Islamic peoples of all the places that hate Israel are increased in their anger and hatred yet again.

Personally, I have asked questions about the problem of my Israeli friends (who live in America, and for the most part do not wish to partake in these operations, and do not wish their relatives or fellow Israelis to be harmed by the inevitable revenge cycles thereof.)

I ask, "Why not just take all the money used to buy arms, buy nuclear materials, buy political influence, and so forth, and use that to buy some land in Canada or somewhere with lots of land and little population, and build your country there? Surely it would be cheaper.

The answer, "Because the Temple of Jerusalem, or at least the Wall, is there. It cannot be arbitrarily moved to the Yukon or even to Egypt. It has historical and religious meaning. You may as well ask Mecca to be moved to Nebraska."

OK. "So, do you think you need to kill every single Arab that surrounds Israel?"

Answer; "No, only the violent, terrorists and fanatics."

OK. "So, will you ultimately have to use nuclear weapons against some Islamic country that has a nuclear weapon?"

Answer: "Not any more than when America needs to use nukes against other nuclear powers. Usually there is a balance of power, and sane leaders prevent all out strikes."

OK. "So, wouldn't the same logic apply to Iran? Do we need to stop them?"

Answer: "Well, hopefully they are rational, at some level, and will not actually use such weapons, however there are many irrational acts which countries such as Iran and Pakistan take part in. And to a lessor degree, India and China also take part in problematic enterprises. Everyone must keep an eye on everyone else. Not Israel, not the USA, nor any other country should become irrational and use these weapons. But there is always a chance."

OK. "So, do you think Hamas, if left unchecked, would use such a weapon if they ever got their hands on it?

Answer: "Look at what they do now. They lob explosives into Israel with the full knowledge that destruction will rain down upon them as a result. A nuclear weapon that destroyed Israel and also destroyed Gaza would only be seen as glorious in their eyes, somehow fitting the 'martyr' label, ensuring the 70 virgins in Heaven, or whatever."

This is the typical question answer session. There is no solution using logic or reason. There is only religion, hatred, revenge and that sort of thing. It keeps on going, over and over. I truly am afraid that it will lead to either the utter destruction of Israel and the surrounding Arab states, or to an infinite series of the kinds of wars and sieges that are going on right now, until all eyes are gouged out and all tongues are cut off.

I hope not. This is so tiring to me.